top of page

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila, also known as St. Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun, and a prominent figure in the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation. Born Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada on March 28, 1515, in Ávila, Spain, she would go on to become one of the most celebrated mystics and spiritual writers in Christian history.

Teresa was raised in a devout Catholic family with a strong emphasis on prayer and piety. Her early exposure to the lives of the saints and her reading of chivalric romances ignited a desire for a life dedicated to God. At the age of seven, she convinced her brother to run away with her to seek martyrdom among the Moors, a testament to her early fervor for the faith.

In her adolescence, Teresa's piety waned as she became more interested in worldly pleasures. However, a critical turning point occurred when, at the age of 20, she experienced a conversion after reading "The Third Spiritual Alphabet" by Francisco de Osuna. This event marked the beginning of her return to a life of prayer and contemplation.

In 1535, Teresa entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila. Her early years in the convent were marked by physical ailments and spiritual struggles. However, Teresa's determination to pursue a life of prayer and perfection led her to embrace the teachings of St. John of the Cross and to seek a more contemplative and austere way of life.

Teresa's spiritual journey reached a pivotal moment when, in 1555, she underwent a mystical experience known as the "Transverberation of the Heart," during which an angel pierced her heart with a flaming arrow, symbolizing the divine union of her soul with God. This event marked the beginning of a series of mystical encounters and visions that would characterize the rest of her life.

In 1562, Teresa founded the Discalced Carmelite Order, a reform movement within the Carmelite order that sought a return to the primitive rule of life established by St. Albert of Jerusalem. The Discalced Carmelites, or Barefoot Carmelites, placed a strong emphasis on poverty, contemplative prayer, and a simple lifestyle. Teresa faced opposition and challenges in establishing the new order, but her determination and spiritual insights gradually gained recognition and support.

One of Teresa's most significant contributions to Christian mysticism is her writings. Her masterpiece, "The Interior Castle" (also known as "The Mansions"), written in 1577, is an exploration of the stages of the soul's journey toward union with God. In this work, Teresa uses the metaphor of a castle with seven mansions to describe the progression of the soul's spiritual growth.

Teresa's writings also include her autobiography, "The Life of Teresa of Jesus," where she candidly reflects on her spiritual journey, struggles, and encounters with God. Her clarity, wit, and deep insights into the spiritual life make her a revered figure in Christian literature.

Despite her accomplishments, Teresa faced criticism and skepticism from some within the Church. Her experiences of mystical ecstasy, such as levitation during prayer, were met with skepticism, and she underwent investigations by the Inquisition. However, her writings were eventually deemed orthodox.

St. Teresa of Avila died on October 4, 1582, at the age of 67. She was canonized as a saint by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. She was later declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. Her feast day is celebrated on October 15.

St. Teresa of Avila's impact on Christian spirituality is immeasurable. Her teachings on prayer, contemplation, and the interior life continue to inspire seekers of God's presence. The Carmelite tradition, especially the Discalced Carmelites, remains deeply influenced by her insights, and her writings continue to guide and nourish the spiritual lives of countless individuals around the world.


St. Teresa of Avila stands as a luminary in the history of Christian mysticism, a model of holiness, and a guide for those seeking a deeper relationship with God.

Marian Encounters

St. Teresa of Avila, known for her mystical experiences and spiritual insights, had encounters with the Virgin Mary throughout her life. These encounters were marked by visions, moments of divine communication, and a deep sense of the Blessed Mother's presence in Teresa's spiritual journey. St. Teresa did not emphasize these experiences in her writings as much as some other mystics.


Early Devotion to the Virgin Mary
From a young age, Teresa had a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary. Her mother died when she was 14, and Teresa sought solace and guidance from the Mother of God during this difficult time. The Virgin Mary became a source of comfort and inspiration for Teresa's spiritual life.

Mystical Vision of Our Lady
One of the significant encounters Teresa had with the Virgin Mary occurred when she was in her forties. In her autobiography, "The Life of Teresa of Jesus," she recounts a mystical experience in which she saw the Virgin Mary with great clarity. The vision left a lasting impression on Teresa, deepening her love and devotion to the Mother of God.

The Gift of a Bejeweled Cross
In another mystical experience, Teresa described receiving a bejeweled cross from the hands of the Virgin Mary. This cross became a tangible symbol of her spiritual espousal with Christ and her commitment to the Carmelite way of life. Teresa saw the gift as a sign of the Virgin Mary's approval of her efforts to reform the Carmelite order and live a more contemplative and austere life.

Support for the Discalced Carmelites
As Teresa worked to establish the Discalced Carmelite order, she believed that the Virgin Mary was guiding and supporting her efforts. The Carmelite monasteries she founded were often dedicated to the Virgin Mary under various titles. The influence of the Mother of God was evident in the spirituality and ethos of the Discalced Carmelites.

Famous Quotes

St. Teresa of Avila left behind a rich legacy of spiritual writings that continue to inspire and guide believers. Here are some famous quotes attributed to St. Teresa of Avila:

"Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love."

"Humility must always be doing its work like a bee making its honey in the hive: without humility all will be lost."

"Patience obtains everything."

"All the troubles of the Church come from people thinking they are something."

"Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes."

"Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us."

"Always think of yourself as everyone's servant; look for Christ Our Lord in everyone and you will then have respect and reverence for them all."

"The most potent and acceptable prayer is the prayer that leaves the best effects. I don't mean it must immediately fill the soul with desire... The best effects [are] those that are followed up by actions — that is, when the soul not only desires the honor of God, but really strives for it."

"In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel."

"Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul."

"The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; do, then, whatever most arouses you to love."

"Silence is God's first language."

"The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes."

"To have courage for whatever comes in life—everything lies in that."

"The Lord helps you more than you think; He is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight the good fight, to carry the heaviest part of the cross, and to be a generous combatant."

bottom of page